Something’s Not Right
A better future for all Australians is possible, but to get there, we each need to play our part to respond to the wound in our nation. When we hear statistics about Indigenous disadvantage and listen to people’s stories of pain and injustice, most of us have a natural desire to do something, to make things right. But many of us don’t know how! There’s actually quite a lot you can do to make a difference. Responding will look different for different people. Find your response to the lingering injustice in our nation and start playing your part in a better future today.
Most of us think that ‘doing something’ to address Indigenous injustice and disadvantage should look a certain way, like building schools, giving money or even travelling to remote communities. While these things have their place, we challenge you to think outside the box… Visiting a remote Indigenous community might be the right thing for one person, but it’s not realistic for everyone. In fact, it wouldn’t be helpful for everyone to respond that way! Besides, Indigenous people make up 3% of the Australian population, so close personal relationships with Indigenous Australians just aren't possible for every non-Indigenous person.
For everyone, responding is about finding ways to live out togetherness. This might look like a face-to-face relationship, but it could also be about developing a sense of togetherness. At its most basic, togetherness means recognising our connectedness, understanding another’s reality, validating their concerns and experiences and recognising that our freedoms (or lack thereof) are interlinked. We believe a sense of connection and togetherness is the first step to addressing the wound in our nation and overcoming the lingering injustices of colonisation.
The way you respond will depend on your position, location, influence and interests, personally and professionally. Your response will differ depending on whether you’re a mother, a mechanic, a student, a teacher or a business person. It will depend on what you’re interested in - music, footy, technology, art or food. It will also depend on those you can influence, perhaps your friends, sports club, children, partner or colleagues. We suggest you take time to consider all of these things when deciding how to respond.
Believe it or not, listening and learning can make a real difference. Listening and learning isn’t just a precursor to action, it is action! One of the most powerful ways you can make a difference is choosing to increase your awareness and understanding - about our shared history, Indigenous culture and issues that are important to many Indigenous people such as treaty, constitutional recognition, land rights and other justice matters.
When you take it upon yourself to listen and learn, you ease pressure on Indigenous people who currently have to invest time and effort to increase awareness amongst mainstream society. As more people take responsibility for their own learning, Indigenous people are able to spend more time focusing on the needs of their own communities.
Listening and learning in order to acknowledge the past and better understand Indigenous people and culture are meaningful ways we can help address past injustice and contribute to a better shared future. Taking time to listen and learn about history and culture can provide a crucial foundation to begin to build respectful relationship when the opportunity arises. Although it might not seem like much in light of the challenges, awareness in and of itself can be incredibly powerful, particularly if you share your learning with others. Know that changed attitudes and behaviours can be simple and subtle and just as important as big policy changes.
Finding ways to actively apply your awareness through acknowledging and valuing Indigenous people, culture and history is an important part of responding. Some suggestions:
We recommend starting locally. Engaging locally - whether in person or simply visiting a local gallery, museum or Indigenous led event - helps you to see your direct connection to our shared story, both historically and today. Starting locally also tends to be more accessible both geographically and financially, with greater potential for long-term relationship. Engaging locally shows that you recognise the value of Indigenous people in your immediate community, and can provide a helpful introduction to working alongside Indigenous communities.
If you seek to engage with an Indigenous leader or community, be aware that there’s a lot of pressure put on Indigenous people to engage with non-Indigenous communities on their terms. For example, Indigenous people are often requested to do Welcome to Country at non-Indigenous events. The one-sided nature of this engagement can become draining for Indigenous people. Before you expect Indigenous people to participate in your own events, perhaps invest time in supporting Indigenous events when there’s a clear public invitation. Your presence shows that you’re invested in what’s important to Indigenous people, and can lead to more genuine, mutual relationship in the future.
Respectful relationships and connections ultimately have the power to change everything. For some people, responding might mean entering into relationships and partnerships with Indigenous people, organisations and communities. If you choose to respond in this way, it’s important to understand that the process of connecting is crucial. While it’s tempting to focus all of your attention on producing more tangible outcomes, we believe that one of the most important outcomes you can achieve is building quality relationships. This means making sure you connect with people first, before launching into projects. It also means doing things together, and not assuming that you know best or trying ‘fix’ anyone. So before you jump into action, it’s crucial to think about your attitude and your approach; how you do something can be just as important as what you do.
The Australians Together Approach is designed to help develop and maintain respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The Australians Together Approach recommends:
However you choose to respond, remember it’s an ongoing process, not a once-off cultural experience. As you integrate learning and responding into your daily life, you’ll be making a difference in our nation.